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Professor Nigel Gilbert CBE

Dr Professor Nigel Gilbert CBE holds a distinguished chair in Computational Social Science having been a Professor of Sociology at the University of Surrey. Nigel brings a fascinating insight into how IT an help us understand society. His prolific output includes Agent-based Models (Sage Publications 2008); a technique used to model behaviours such as clustering of populations, the dynamics of opinions in society and the operation of the housing market.   

Nigel is a polymath.  He wanted to do computer science at university but nobody was offering such a degree yet so he studied engineering at Cambridge with management studies thrown in, Nigel’s first program was for his father, a biophysical chemist, helping him understand through simulation how haemoglobin picks up and releases oxygen in the blood.  This around the time that Crick and Watson were building computer models (and note the parallels with Dennis Noble).  He was a lecturer in sociology at York University and joined the newly formed University of Surrey as part of a small sociology department in 1976.  He made a name for himself using a microcomputer to cut through the complexity of rules for social security benefits that were beyond human comprehension.  As a result the topic was  in the Alvey project. 

Rodney Hornstein

Rodney Hornstein started work as a programmer at IBM during his vacations in 1958 and worked there, off and on, until 1962. He joined LEO computers programming the LEO ranges and later selling them and becoming director of marketing. He lived through the turmoil of first the merger of English Electric and LEO (EEL), shielded by his boss from the turbulence. He was also shielded when EEL merged with Marconi Computers. The big bang was the formation of ICL in 1968. He lived through the often brutal years of the Jeff Cross era from 1972 to 1977 but lost faith and his natural optimism when ICL began to implode into confusion in 1979.

Rodney then spent seven years outside the IT industry but did encounter Sir Arnold Weinstock head of GEC. He was headhunted to run an ICL spin off, DAP, which he had re-engineered from a £30,000 production cost to about $5,000 and sold it into the US and UK markets. He ran Alphameric, as CEO for 5 years, chairman for 4 years, building a profitable company from a near wreck. By 1999 he became an angel investor often acting as chairman of the board. His normal optimism about technology is being tested about the current developments in AI, but he heads an AI start up with a different approach.

Alan Burkitt-Gray

Alan Burkitt-Gray thinks both Whitehall, the government, and Westminster, Parliament, are useless in their understanding of technology. A proper quantum computer is five years away and poses problems because it will be able to decode all messages encoded: organisations such as banks and government are already hoarding encrypted messages in order to decrypt them in the future. Quantum computing will also allow users to encrypt messages so that nobody would be able to read them.

Mark Holford

Mark Holford trained as a solicitor and worked in two practices before joining Thomas Miller as a claims executive and underwriter in 1978. He worked closely with the company’s IT Director to develop applications using pc and minicomputer technology. He helped to build Thomas Miller’s reputation as a leader in the use of IT in insurance.  He was the first person in his firm outside the IT department with a pc on his desk. He used Borland software to build spreadsheets for the company where he worked for 36 years. He can, says his wife, spot when the results of a calculation are wrong rather than just trust the technology. He is constantly searching for new applications for IT.

John Wallace

John Wallace helped automate the first branch of what was to become NatWest and led IT functions in the bank at the cutting edge for over 30 years. John joined National Provincial in 1951 after leaving school at the first opportunity, with a clutch of “pretty miserable O levels” and learned the trade stoking the boiler and taking spare cash to the Post Office accompanied by a colleague and a truncheon. Ten years later he was one of four staff working with Ferranti on a Pegasus serving five branches in London, After taking charge of systems development in the merger with NatWest in 1968, John ran subsidiary organisations providing services including archiving and payroll back to banks and other businesses as well as developing new products and introducing new technologies. Amongst his many firsts he includes the implementation of the world’s largest DB2 system, which uniquely provided the bank with a totally integrated view of each customer’s relationship with NatWest. John gave up banking 28 years ago as head of Group IT. Since them he has held multiple positions, including Chairman of CIO Connect. One of his most challenging roles was Honorary Treasurer of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, which earned him a standing ovation at his last Court meeting.